Chapter 10: Information Literacy in the Digital Age Lesson Ideas

10.1 - Incorporating information literacy into lessons and activities

Information literacy in general is not a recently developed concept. As such, lesson plans and strategies have been developed to instruct and illustrate information literacy to students. In a traditional information literacy lesson plan, standards of independent inquiry and analysis are met through individual and group activities that utilize physical materails such as magazines, encyclopedias, and newspapers (American Association of School Librarians, 1998).

As we have transitioned into the digital age the content and outlets for content available have multiplied, leaving teachers and students with more information than ever. Barbara Lepanis (1998) emphasized this point by stating that, "information is no longer a scarce resource." Indeed, finding information is no longer a problem. The issue now, is that with more information comes more questionable information. It has become more important than ever that teachers provide students with the skills needed to filter through the massive amount of information available.

In the digital age, a majority of the standards, previously laid out to measure the level of understanding of information literacy, remain the same. What has changed are the lesson plan structures and the tools used for enrichment and assessment. Subsequently, the relevancy and connectivity of the information analyzed has improved significantly. With web tools, students are given the freedom to learn information skills independently. Often, these tools allow students to receive immediate assessment of their actions and give them the opportunity to learn from their errors.

10.2 - Lesson plan structure

The incorporation of information literacy in the classroom starts with the teacher having a structure and plan. The initial goal of information literacy is to have student’s access information efficiently and effectively. In order for an educator to prepare students for this, they must begin by creating lesson plans with a focus on inquiry.

Using an inquiry based lesson will target the indicators for effective information literacy learning. These indicators include:

  • Recognize the need for information
  • Recognize that accurate and credible information is the basis for proper decision making
  • Formulate questions based on information needs
  • Brainstorm and identify a variety of different available sources
  • Develop and use successful strategies for locating and understanding information (American Association of School Librarians, 1998)

Using an inquiry model within the development of your lesson can help guide a teacher to focus on information literacy. The main idea behind an inquiry model is to have students ask questions relating to the content, thus allowing them to submerge themselves deeper into the material and allow them to come away with a better understanding. The asking of the questions alone are allowing the students to go past the memorization phase of learning, and have them applying it to further concepts. Weather a specific answer is discovered of not, the inquiry alone can lead to an incredible amount of discovery and learning.

As the students begin to formulate their own questions toward the content, they will already begin to recognize the need for accurate information to help them best reach their final answer or decision. An example of an inquiry learning activity is a WebQuest.

A WebQuest is basically a web driven, discovery exercise that leads the students to a “final destination”, while allowing them to further explore once they’ve reached that destination(Trickel, 2005).

The incorporation of these inquiry strategies is taking the initial step in preparing students to become information literate. By setting up the need for information, along with the motivation to go beyond what they read on the page, you are preparing students to become more information literate.

10.3 - Technology resources

When looking to develop an information literacy lesson it is important to first determine what your objective is. Information literacy lessons can be focused on either teaching information literacy skills directly or on utilizing information literacy skills to accomplish an unrelated task. The technology resources available for lesson plan development primarily focus on only one of the two educational objectives.

Table 1 focuses on resources aimed at teaching information literacy skills directly to students. These resources focus on developing a conscientious student who is able to critically evaluate information and make thoughtful decisions based on the data gathered.

Table 2 includes resources that are focused on moving beyond simply teaching literacy. These resources incorporate the information literacy strategies and knowledge into activities to test students application abilities.

Table 1:

Technology Resource



Grade Level

Boolean Searching on the Internet
The webpage, as part of the Internet Tutorials website, provides a colorful and simplified description of the function of boolean operators as used by search engines. The site provides simple examples that can be logically followed by students and is presented in a way that students can proceed at their own pace.
  • Colorful examples of And, Or, and Not booleans
  • Explanation of how popular search engines utilize booleans differently
Boolean Machine
Extremely simple JavaScript application that interactively illustrates how each of the three boolean operators work when conducting a search on the Internet.
  • Easy to use visual tool that clearly illustrates the boolean concept
Evaluating the Quality of Information on the Internet
This website focuses on increasing the student's ability to critically evaluate Internet data. The site is vocabulary-driven, providing an array of well-defined terms that are critically to students gaining an understanding of information literacy. The site does not contain any student activities but the layout is designed for students to learn in a topic by topic manner.
  • Pop-Up windows displaying vocabulary terms and definitions
  • Real-world examples of hoaxes and scams
  • Step-by-step instructions on how to evaluate information
Evaluating Websites: Criteria and Tools
This site provides a collection of college-generated resources and information on evaluated the legitimacy of websites and online information.
  • Includes peer-reviewed documents on website evaluation
  • Provides specific evaluation criteria
Checklist for Evaluating Web Sites
A resource provided by the University of Maryland, the website provides a JavaScript-based checklist for evaluating the credibility of website information. The application is student-focused and can be applied to any website or content area that a teacher would want to focus on. The end results can be printed, reviewed, and analyzed by the student, the teacher, or the class as a whole.
  • Includes an interactive checklist applicable to any website
  • Provides a description of what the student is looking for and why it is valuable in judging the credibility of a website.
Evaluation of Information Sources
A library source listing, this site offers dozens of links to web pages focused on information literacy and information evaluation. While the site itself is not a source of information, the links embedded allow the student to seek out information on their own and then present to the teacher or class
  • Offers a variety of topical resources that focus on different learning styles and abilities of the student population
Bare Bones 101: A Basic Tutorial For Searching the Web
As the title states, this University of Southern California website provides a simplified online textbook on searching and evaluating data on the Internet. The site is organized in a straight-forward manner with a table of contents that directs students to short web pages containing singular concepts.
  • Includes linked examples illustrating most of the concepts on the site
  • Provides case studies of popular search engines that students could present in a classroom
The ABCs of Website Evaluation
While not actually a site, this online PDF document provides twenty six terms, A-Z, that relate to website evaluation and information literacy. Each term is then defined in a language designed for student understanding.
  • Well organized terminology that can be easily divided among students in a classroom
  • Terms are sourced, allowing for a deeper level of inquriy by students
Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators
This link-heavy site provides pre-evaluations, handout activities, articles, and exercises on safely and knowledgeably navigating the Internet.
  • Easily accessable handouts that students can complete online
  • Massive amount of resources that can be utilized differently by unique groups of students
November Learning - Information Literacy Resources (Activities)
An excellent user-friendly website that guides students through the acquisition of information literacy knowledge and skills. The site offers a series of activities such as quizzes, website evaluations, and information searches that drive student learning.
  • Pre-assessment quizzes that test student knowledge
  • A variety of actual websites with incorrect data designed for students to critically evaluate
Information Literacy International Directory
This site serves as a jumping off point for information literacy research. The web pages are filled with articles, information, and questions that provides students with a broad understanding of information literacy.
  • Offers an international take on information literacy
  • Provides a litany of resources for independent research

Table 2:

Technology Resource



Grade Level

Timeline Maker
This tool from the Teachology website, allows students to create both veritcal and horizontal timelines. This easy to use application can be utilized for almost any type of lesson. Ideally, the tool would be combined with information from a second web resource that students would critically evaluate and apply to the timeline.
  • Easy to use time line application
Organizing Information
This elementary education tool provides interactive questions that guide students through how to organize information in different ways. The site provides examples and questions for each of the major elementary topics (math, reading, social studies, and science).
  • Questions for each elementary content area
  • Can be elaborated on easily as part of a larger lesson plan
While this site is designed more for the teacher, it provides a library of pre-created WebQuests for all content areas and grade levels. The site features a curriculum matrix that allows a teacher to search their topic and grade level simultaneously to find all relevant WebQuests. Perhaps most importantly, the site provides tools and resources to develop teacher-generated WebQuests.
  • WebQuest curriculum matrix application
  • WebQuestion generation tools that all teachers can easily utilize
Fair Use
This site features a variety of blogs focused on copyright issues. The blogs are updated frequently and focus on current issues.
  • Copyright blogs that can be used in Web 2.0 lesson planning
Copyright Crash Course Tutorial
This site provides a self-guided application that instructions and evaluates students knowledge and understanding of copyright law. The site is broken down into small information pieces and includes an excellent test that can be used to evaluate understanding.
  • Self-guided copyright tutorial application
  • Online test to evaluate understanding
November Learning - Authentic Websites to Validate Information in
With this resource, educators are given seven excellent websites filled with information that is less than credible. These are intended to be used as an authentic assessment of a student's ability to utilize information literacy skills.
  • Includes links to pre-designed "fake" websites with credibility issues

10.4 - Evaluation in lessons

In order to fully and properly evaluate to asses information literacy, the teacher should incorporate the use of rubrics and concrete grading criteria before the assignment begins. With the use of rubrics and the incorporation of authentic assessments, you are allowing the students to be assessed as objectively as possible and allow them to clearly see the expectations before they begin. Authentic assessments act as a motivation to desire further learning as it is as close to a real world application as can be made within the classroom. Students can take their knowledge gained in the classroom out into the world and continue to build off of it.

The use of rubrics, and the language used within them can encourage students to go beyond what is expected of them. Some other advantages rubrics offer are as follows:

  • Force the teacher to clarify expectations in specific terms
  • Promotes student awareness to help assess peers
  • Allows students to establish benchmarks to measure and track progress
  • Provides specific and accurate feedback on possible problem areas or areas of weakness

Especially with the incorporation of rubrics and authentic assessments, you are leaving the end product from the students somewhat “open” to allow further inquiry to be built off of, thus, refueling their need for not only information, but the ability to use and understand that information effectively and efficiently.

Another strategy in using rubrics is allowing for student input in the creation of the rubric. The inclusion of the student’s ideas into the criteria for assessment can help generate inspiration for high success. Of course, as the teacher, it is important to facilitate and guide the student’s to a desired destination. The links below provide tools for developing rubrics and assessment tools for information literacy lesson plans.

Tool For Real Time Assessment of Information Literacy Skills
Rubrics For Web Lessons
Rubric For Evaluating Web Quests

10.5 - Sample Lessons

The following links are examples of web based lesson plans that exemplify the techniques and strategies illustrated above. They can be used directly in the classroom, or as models to mold your own lesson plans after to more directly target your own designated inquiry expectations within your classroom.

Network of Illinois Learning Resources in Community Colleges
Jurassic Park WebQuest
Information Literacy WebQuests (3-5)
Big 6 Resources

10.6 - Additional Resources

Information Literacy in the Digital Age
Information Literacy - The Challenge of the Digital Age
Information Literacy Weblog
Let's Talk 2.0
In Virtual Pursuit
Information Literacy Standards For Student Learning
Inquiry Model For Information Literacy
WebQuest Lesson Template
Having an IM-PACT: a Model For Improving Instructional Presentations